Arsenal beat Burnley 3-1 at the Emirates, winning in a way that is sure to make Mikel Arteta happy. The Gunners controlled the game, limiting the visitors to 0.3 xG while scoring three of their own, including two from a set piece. It’s not the prettiest, most exciting way to win, but it’s a great way to consistently rack up points. It’s a solid win, especially given the club’s lengthy injury list, a list Ben White joined with a minor knock suffered against Sevilla that kept him out today.
It feels like the way you most frequently drop points against lesser teams is by allowing too many chances, and Mikel Arteta has clearly changed the way his side plays to have more of the ball, dictate the tempo and flow of a match, and suffocate opponents’ ability to attack.
Most of the time, Burnley don’t get the goal they scored. Takehiro Tomiyasu defended Luka Koleosho really well down the wing, muscling him off the ball, and using his body to seal off the attacker. Unfortunately, Koleosho was allowed to grab, trip, and / or go through the Arsenal defender’s back to win the ball back. And it still took a massive, lucky deflection for the ball to end up in the back of the Arsenal net.
It was surprising, at least to me, that a foul wasn’t given on the Burnley goal, given what Michael Oliver had deemed a foul at other points in the match. For example, Bukayo Saka was called for a slight nudge in the back of his defender in the first half. It’s impossible not to compare Saka being whistled for that foul and several other instances of bumps in the back being called closely against Arsenal with what wasn’t deemed a foul last weekend (Joelinton on Gabriel) and what wasn’t called a foul on the Burnley goal. The inconsistency is perplexing and when Arsenal come out on the wrong side of decisions regardless of whether a foul is or isn’t given, it’s easy to see why Mikel Arteta might feel aggrieved.
The Burnley goal cancelled out a Leandro Trossard marker scored just before halftime. The Belgian courageously threw himself at a ball at the back post and looked to have picked up a significant injury for his troubles after a collision with Burnley keeper James Trafford that sent him crashing into the woodwork. From the way he was holding his arm / shoulder, it looked like he might have broken a bone, but fortunately he was able to continue and looks to have avoided anything serious.
Arsenal reclaimed their lead just three minutes after Burnley drew level when William Saliba rose above everyone else and darted in front of Trafford to head home from an expertly delivered Leandro Trossard corner. The Gunners have scored more than half their goals this season from set pieces. It’s a real weapon for them.
Despite being at the center of an unlucky goal against, Takehiro Tomiyasu was excellent today. He and Oleksandr Zinchenko combined to win 11/13 duels between themselves. The Ukranian chipped in at the other end too, putting in an on-ball performance reminiscent of last year’s play. Zinchenko scored what turned out to be an important insurance goal for the Gunners with a fantastic, leaping karate-style volley into the top corner on the second phase of a corner kick.
That third goal gave Arsenal some much-needed breathing room for when Fabio Vieira saw a straight red card in the 83rd minute. It was a clumsy, naive challenge — studs up and foot well off the ground. You can’t really be upset that he was given his marching orders, but the actual contact was minimal and Josh Brownhill made a show of rolling around on the ground like he was seriously hurt. The curative powers of a red card shown are something, aren’t they? For what it’s worth, I’m not sure an Arsenal opponent gets sent off for the same challenge. It feels like Bukayo Saka is on the receiving end of similar challenges every game.
Fortunately, the Gunners already had a two-goal lead and defended well to see out the match. Declan Rice and Jorginho did particularly well in the center of the park both to close out the game and, more generally, for the entire 90 minutes. Their job is made easier, I think, by Leandro Trossard leading the line as opposed to Eddie Nketiah. Trossard is a more similar player to Gabriel Jesus than Nketiah, which helps Arsenal control and retain the ball. The attack looks better with the Belgian up top.
Arsenal are tied atop the Premier League, at least temporarily, with Manchester City and will head into the international break no worse than tied for second in the table with Liverpool. Hopefully the time off will allow some of Arsenal’s injured players to heal and be ready to contribute during a congested five weeks that will see the club play 9 matches in 37 days.